Wednesday, December 01, 2010

GWWC Rutgers Launch

[Update: see here for video and news coverage of the event.]

I previously introduced Giving What We Can, and said a bit about why I chose to join. The organization was founded by Toby Ord in the UK, but now some folks at Rutgers are starting a university chapter, in hopes of encouraging more people in the US to join too.* On plausible calculations, each additional person who joins and gives 10% of their future income to the most effective Givewell-recommended charities, could be expected to save almost five hundred lives. (That's assuming $500 per life saved**, and income of $60k x 40 years.)

To launch the new GWWC chapter, Peter Singer will give a public talk at Rutgers tomorrow (Thurs) night, 8pm at the Livingston Student Center. See the Facebook event page for more details.

As part of this event, two of the chapter founders -- Nick Beckstead and Mark Lee -- will make an even more substantial pledge: to give away 50% of their future earnings, after they graduate, and everything over $20k in the meantime.
Serious stuff! But I think it really brings out how comparatively easy it is for the rest of us to give 10%, and thereby save hundreds of lives at no significant cost to ourselves.

Of course, depending on your (e.g. family) circumstances, even 10% might seem more than you can comfortably afford. In that case, as previously mentioned, you can make a more modest pledge at Peter Singer's Life You Can Save website. Even a mere one percent donation to the most effective charities could be expected to save an extra life each year. And doesn't that, on reflection, just seem thoroughly worth it to you?

P.S. To clarify: I wouldn't recommend that anyone give more than they, on reflection, really want to. You probably wouldn't sustain it, for one thing. Indeed, part of the GWWC pledge is that it is made "freely, openly, and without regret." But it's easy to do nothing just because you haven't really given the options serious consideration. So I really want to encourage more people to reflect on their own values here, and see whether they don't end up agreeing that there is some non-zero value X such that they would gladly give up X% of their income to save (approximately) X lives per year.

* = Any local readers interested in setting up a Princeton GWWC group? Get in touch!

** [2016 Update:] That early cost estimate is now considered excessively optimistic.  Current GiveWell estimates are now more like approximately $3000 per life saved, or $50 per QALY.  Still well worth helping, of course!

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